|Born||29 January 1933|
|Died||22 July 2004 (aged 71)|
|Genres||Pop, rock, jazz|
Alexandre "Sacha" Distel (29 January 1933 - 22 July 2004) was a French singer, guitarist, and actor who had hits with a cover version of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", "Scoubidou", and "The Good Life". He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur in 1997.
Distel was the son of Russian-Jewish emigre Léonine Distel who was born in Odessa (Russian Empire) and French-Jewish pianist Andrée Ventura (1902-1965), born in Constantinople. His uncle, bandleader Ray Ventura, promoted jazz in the 1930s and was involved with swing in France. After Ventura settled in Paris with his orchestra Les Collegiens, Distel gave up piano and switched to guitar.
In 1948, Ventura invited Distel to hear Dizzy Gillespie perform with his orchestra, along with Bruno Coquatrix, Paul Misraki, and André Hornez. Distel's efforts led to the orchestra's split, which gave birth to two rival bands: Guy Wormser's New Orleans die-hards and the cool jazz and bebop aficionados led by Distel. After meeting Hubert Damisch, a saxophone player, Distel founded the band that would allow him to be with the leaders. With help from Jean Marie Ingrand (bass), Mimi Perrin (piano), and Jean-Louis Viale (drums), the band won the Coliseum's Night of Jazz Meilleur Petit Orchestre Moderne award, with Damisch and Distel winning prizes on the same night.
Distel became a professional jazz guitarist. During his career he worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Tony Bennett. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1950s after establishing himself as a French crooner. He rose to fame in 1958 with the song "Brigitte", a homage to Brigitte Bardot, with a photo of the couple on the cover. In the 1960s, he composed "La Belle Vie", a tune that made its way across the Atlantic as "The Good Life" and performed by Tony Bennett. French lyrics were added in the 1970s and it became Distel's signature tune. During the 1960s, he had a variety show on French television. His only British hit single came in 1970 with a cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", the Oscar-winning Burt Bacharach/Hal David song from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Distel's version reached No. 10 in the UK. In the 1970s, he became popular outside France and hosted the Miss World contest in London in 1977.
He appeared on TV variety shows in the UK throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Seaside Special and The Val Doonican Show. Maintaining his popularity in his homeland, however, Distel recorded French versions of English-language hits, such as "Vite, Cherie, Vite" ("Beach Baby"), "Chanson Bleue" ("Song Sung Blue") and "Je T'Appelle Pour Dire Que Je T'Aime" ("I Just Called To Say I Love You"). He also recorded in German, Spanish and Italian to satisfy his audiences in other parts of Europe.
On 12 January 2004, Distel recorded an edition of Desert Island Discs for BBC Radio 4. Maurice Ravel and Frank Sinatra were among his eight song choices. The program was broadcast a month later on 15 February 2004, five months before his death.
Distel was involved with actress Brigitte Bardot in 1958, having invited her to his birthday party in St. Tropez. The relationship ended in 1959. He was romantically involved with singer Dionne Warwick. He married championship Olympic skier Francine Bréaud in 1963. Distel publicly stated that he remained faithful to his wife. "Anything I want in a woman I can get at home."
In an interview a month after Distel's death, his widow Francine said she knew he had been unfaithful. "I knew it was going to happen and I knew it was going to pass."